Story by Sarah Lévesque | December 8, 2016
In trying to trace her own professional track record, publisher Diane Pinet – the founder of Bloc-Notes Music Publishing – acknowledges that such an endeavour is fraught with gaps and lapses. It’s been a long while indeed since this headstrong music impassionata started evolving in the music world.
Even in high school, she would promote concerts by Jean-Pierre Ferland to Harmonium. “Back then, I had no clue one could even earn a living doing that,” says Pinet. During a student strike at cégep Saint-Laurent, where she was a student, booker Alain Paré tapped her to work with him. She accepted immediately and kept working through her university studies on a path that that would ultimately lead her to the copyrights world, at SDE/PRO, one of SOCAN’s precursor organizations. When the day came where she toyed with the idea of changing her career to go into advertising, her musician, writer and composer friends urged her to start her own publishing company instead. And that’s what she did in 1985, creating Bloc-Notes Music Publishing.
“Back then, rights were tiny,” says Pinet. “I was frustrated with how little money the writers and composers made. Even for artists who had a number one, some were often living below the poverty line. I had a lot of difficulty with that situation. I had a very hard time dealing with that.”
Right from the start, Bloc-Notes Music Publishing stood out because of the international nature of its catalogue. Pinet spent a lot of time in France working on agreements. To gain credibility in this very masculine world, she told people she had a boss, a man. “People thought I must’ve been really efficient, since my ‘virtual’ boss was sending me on business trips so often…” That’s when she signed a sup-publishing deal for the entire Virgin France catalogue.
This privileged link with France is still as strong now that Bloc-Notes has become the sub-publisher of the prestigious Warner Chappell France catalogue. For Pinet, the idea that a song must travel beyond it’s original territory is self-evident, even essential. “A good song knows no bounds,” she says. “I think that comes from my education. I moved to many different countries when I was young. I lived in France and the U.K. My dad worked in the Canadian Air Force. So to me, no matter where I am, there’s always something wonderful to do.”
It clearly served her well, as is evident through her work, and collaborations with writers, composers and singers such as Céline Dion, Luc Plamondon, Patrick Bruel, Gerry Boulet, Gipsy Kings, Cirque du Soleil (René Dupéré), and Marie-Mai, as well as with songwriters who’ve been certified Gold, Platinum and won many SOCAN No. 1 Song Awards such as Tino Izzo, Diane Cadieux, Bobby John, Fred St-Gelais, Bobby Bazini, Sally Folk and Stéphane Dufour, to name but a few.
“What I’m looking for when I listen to a song is that shiver of pleasure down my spine. You can’t be in this line of work for as long as I have without a deep love of music.”
To this day, Pinet still cultivates relationships all over the world. Just a few days before our conversation, the businesswoman had finalized an agreement with Warner Chappell U.S. after months of negotiations. “There’s no single way of doing business, but a multitude of ways,” she says. “The Québec market has nothing in common with the Canadian market. Just as the American market has nothing in common with the French or Japanese markets. And I’m not talking politics, here. Not at all. When you work on a global scale, what matters most is availability. A capacity for reacting quickly and adapting. I must be able to completely re-think a business plan in less than 24 hours. To me, such nimbleness and flexibility is where [a music publisher’s] creativity comes in.”
Whether such agreements are concluded with major players or independent ones doesn’t matter to Pinet; what drives her is the contact with the writers and composers she represents. “What I’m looking for when I listen to a song is that shiver of pleasure down my spine,” she says. “You can’t be in this line of work for as long as I have without a deep love of music. I still get a huge thrill when I hear new music, when songwriters come to my office to play a new song for me. It’s a gift.”
Her ties with songwriters are so precious that this so-called “song manager” grooms them through songwriting workshops in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. “I pushed Bobby John to participate in a songwriting camp in Toronto with 40 other creators for the Pan American games,” she recalls. “In the end, the song he wrote with Jasmine Denham and Murray Daigle, ‘Together We Are One,’ was selected as the theme song for the games. And it was Serena Ryder who sang the song, which won a SOCAN No. 1 Song Award. But in the end, the journey of a writer or composer is always unique and specific to each and every one of them. What’s good for Betty Bonifassi is not necessarily good for Fred St-Gelais.”
Pinet has seen her trade transform for better and worse, but she still sees the new challenges facing creators, producers and publishers in a positive light. She’s impatient to see the results of the 2017 Copyright Act review which, she hopes, will see the extension of the protection from 50 to 70 years for creators, as is already the case in France, Italy and Brazil. “I also hope that the revision will give us the necessary tools so that our writers, composers, and creators are better represented with regards to the use of their work, and more urgently than ever with all the technological changes going on in our world.”
Through this turmoil, Pinet embraces the challenge as an opportunity to gather all the players in the music ecosystem – from the creators to the various associations across the country – around a common cause. “Our culture is a reflection of who we are.”
Story by SOCAN